Family Law & Divorce

Family Law is an umbrella term that covers all legal matters that pertain to marriages and families, including prenuptial agreements, adoption, legal separation, annulment, divorce, division of marital property through equitable distribution, spousal support, child custody, and child support. The lawyers at Semisch Law have decades of experience helping families weather the storm.

Especially when there are children involved, a cool head and a warm heart help smooth the way for parents to do their best for the sake of the kids. When workable, we employ the techniques of mediation and collaborative divorce. When not, we are prepared to secure your rights for you and for your child or children.

The typical process for divorce includes:

Every family has different needs and issues. We can handle whatever arises with compassion, skill, and as little drama as possible.


How do I know if I need a pre-nuptial agreement?
If you have children and assets you want to preserve for them, an agreement will provide peace of mind. If you are in a family business or have assets that you want to protect, an agreement will shelter the business or assets from claims in a divorce action.

My fiancé wants a pre-nuptial agreement and I don't. What do I do?
If your fiancé insists on an agreement, you must negotiate a contract that is fair for both of you and gives you the protection you need. Hire a lawyer of your own and work it out equitably.

My ex hasn't seen the kids in years and I want my new spouse to adopt them. What are our options?
The ex can give up their parental rights, which will terminate their support obligation. If they will not cooperate, you will file to involuntarily terminate their parental rights before proceeding to the adoption.

How much does a divorce consultation cost?
An initial consultation for an hour to review your situation is $100.00. We suggest you come in with a list of your questions and concerns. We will provide you with a more detailed and specific overview of the process for your particular case and discuss your options.

How much can I expect to pay in spousal support? Child support?
Support is based on the parties' net income. You can go to the Pennsylvania support calculator to get an estimate of what your support amount will be. Remember that beyond basic support there can be additions for child care, private school, and medical expenses like braces which will be divided between the parties based on their relative incomes.

How do we divide our property during a divorce?
Couples are often able to work it out for themselves, which we then put in writing for both to sign. If necessary, division of property can be negotiated through mediation or through the parties' lawyers. If an agreement cannot be reached, you will go to court before a Master for Equitable Distribution of your property.

What about our joint assets?
All assets, whether joint or in your name alone that are accumulated during the marriage, are marital property and subject to distribution.

What if my spouse is abusive?
A Petition for Protection from Abuse will result in a court order that will put your spouse on notice that their abusive behavior will not be tolerated or permitted.

What if I don't have any money?
If your spouse has income or assets and you do not, then the court can be petitioned for support and for assistance with paying your counsel fees. If both parties have limited income and assets, then a no-fault divorce can be obtained relatively inexpensively.

I don't know if I want to get divorced. What are my options?
You may want to consider counseling or perhaps separate for a while to take a break and work out what your options are. If your spouse wants a divorce and you do not, you do not have to agree to the divorce. After you have been separated for two years then your spouse will be able to pursue the divorce without your consent. Your rights will still be protected, but you will not be able to stop the divorce.

My ex is making big money and only paying the old amount of child support. Shouldn't my kids see some of that money?
You should consider reviewing your support every two to three years or when you are aware of a change in circumstances after your divorce. A petition to modify support with Domestic Relations is the way to a conference to assess the changes in income, and will generally be scheduled within sixty days.

My ex can't be trusted with the kids. What do I do?
You will need to present your concerns with a Petition for Custody or to Modify Custody and ask for the appropriate protections for your children.

Divorce & Family Law Glossary of Terms

Payment to a former spouse, intended to cover his or her living expenses, for a period of time set by the court.

Child Custody Agreements
The agreement reached by divorcing parents as to who will take care of the children when and how their custody is to be shared.

Child Support
Payment for the benefit of a child by a parent, typically the non-custodial parent, until the child is eighteen or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last.

Collaborative Divorce
An alternative to litigation where the parties work together to settle their differences amicably.

Termination of a legally recognized marriage.

Equitable Division of Property
The division of marital assets, either by agreement or by court order, when a marriage ends.

Family Law
A broad term that includes but is not limited to divorce, child support, spousal support, alimony, division of property, custody, partial custody, visitation, and adoption.

Joint Legal Custody
A form of custody where both parents are custodial parents, sharing the children according to an agreement reached by them both with the sanction of the court. Parents must consult each other and work as a team regarding major decisions regarding their children with this type of custody.

Legal Separation Agreement
An agreement to separate by a married couple that sets out the terms of their separation. A temporary breather in a marriage, agreed upon by both parties.

Mediation - Divorce
An alternative to litigation in the court system. The parties agree on a mediator with whom they meet to reach an agreement.
Modification of child support: A change in the amount of child support paid by one parent. Support can be modified at any time there is a change in income of the parties or the needs of the child.

Modification of Physical or Legal Custody
A change in the custodial arrangements for dependent children. Custody, whether physical or legal, can be modified by agreement of the parties or by the court where there has been a change in circumstances.

Protection from Abuse
In cases where one party has been threatened or hurt by the other party, the court can intervene to limit or prevent the abuser from having any contact with the victim. This is a Protection From Abuse, or P.F.A. A party that has been abused or put in fear of abuse can petition the court in the county where they reside for an Order for Protection from Abuse that will limit or bar contact with the abuser.

Prenuptial Agreement
An agreement negotiated and signed before entering into marriage by a couple who desire to determine what will happen to their assets, particularly those owned by one or both parties before they married, in the event of the death of a spouse or the divorce of the parties.

Relocation of Minors
The change in residence of dependent children. A parent can not relocate with a minor without the agreement of the other parent or a court order following a hearing on why the move would be in the best interests of the children.

Sole Physical and Legal Custody
When only one parent has the children and need not consult with the other parent when making decisions regarding those children.

Spousal Support and Alimony Pendente Lite
Payments made to the spouse with lower income pending the entry of a decree in divorce.

Stepparent Adoption
Adoption of a stepchild by the stepparent where the natural parent has either voluntarily or involuntarily given up their parental rights.

Temporary Alimony
Payments made by one spouse to another to benefit the less well off spouse until a divorce decree is entered.

Termination of Parental Rights
The end of legal authority of one parent over his or her children. If a parent has failed to provide for or contact their child for six months or longer, their parental rights can be terminated to allow for a stepparent to adopt the child.